Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

The Great Pumpkin (Reviews) Blue Moon, Smuttynose, Southern Tier & Shipyard!

The leaves have changed and the season begs for spices, sweetness, and earthy flavors. In my beer travels I have searched for the “Great” pumpkin beer. One that I can give anyone who loves fall and they’ll sip it through the season. So, without further adieu, I give you The First Annual Great Pumpkin Review – featuring 4 Pumpkin brews that I haven’t reviewed on The Beer Babe before:

Blue Moon – Harvest Moon
This one is amber and has a little head, the smell is slightly pumpkin at the end, but not exceedingly strong. The taste, though, is quite light. It is difficult to pick out the pumpkin flavor in this ale and there’s a bit of thinness to it. It isn’t a bad harvest ale, but to really have the title of being a pumpkin ale, it falls a little shot of the mark.
Smuttynose – Pumpkin
Ale (Portsmouth, NH)
This one is also a rich orangy amber and poured with almost no head. The smell on this one is hard to place. I definitely detect some cinnamon. Tasting this one is actually quite interesting. It has the little sweetness that most pumpkin ales share, but there’s almost a bit of the pumpkin’s vegetable taste in it. Its interesting, but makes it more savory than sweet. I think this is a good one for those who don’t like it sweet. More on the earthy side of the spectrum.
The Shipyard Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Ale (Portland, ME)
This one is the lightest color, a little more on the yellowy amber side than the orange. The aroma on this has got to be one of my most wonderfully pleasant odors that i’ve come across. Maybe its just because I like fall, but the smell on this one is nutmeg, brown sugar, pumpkin, sweetness and malt. I have to say, though, I noticed that this year’s incarnation of this seems a little thinner than I remember it. I like the taste – it’s spicy and pumpkin pie-ish. This is what I think of when I think of a classic pumpkin beer. If such a thing exists!
Southern Tier Pumpking
This one came to me from several of my beer friends on Twitter insisting that I need to taste this. I saw it when I was on Long Island, and snatched it, waiting for the right moment to drink it. After uncapping it I was knocked over by the smell. Brown sugar, spices, pumpkin in a sweeter and deeper note than the others in this round. This one has a smell almost like pumpkin pie… crust? Butter cookie? Its not wheaty but somehow starch smelling, like a sweet bread. This one is the only one in the bunch that’s a 9% ABV. The taste is smooth, not overwhelmingly sweet but completely unique. It isn’t maple-syrupy like the shipyard could be, but more of a new taste. I would recommend that if you’re not offended by lots of flavor(ing) in a beer, try this. I like this one a lot but I don’t know if I can have more than one serving in a sitting. But who would want to? This is a beer for curling up on a porch and watching the leaves change.

So where does this leave us? Still seeking the perfect pumpkin ale. Of the group, Southern Tier had the most personality and originality. Smuttynose had the most “real” pumpkin taste, Blue Moon was the most drinkable, and Shipyard was the most nicely spiced. I’m not sure if I can say that there was one that embodies all the qualities of the elusive ‘Great’ pumpkin beer. But… I’ll keep my eyes peeled the next time I’m in a pumpkin patch.


Bear Republic – Hop Rod Rye (Specialty Ale)


Peak Organic – Maple Oat Ale


  1. Matt

    Otter Creek’s ain’t bad.

    I’ve heard great things about Southern Tier in general, as well as their Pumking. It’s hard to find (though not impossible) around here for some reason.

    I’ve only had one of the six pack, but DFH’s was good. Didn’t “wow” me, but it was tasty. I’ll give it a couple more tries before I pass final judgment.

  2. B.E. Earl

    A subject near and dear to my heart.

    I’ve had all of these this year already and Southern Tier, by far, is my favorite. Incredible aroma and flavor. I got a big hit of vanilla the second time I tried it, but I was a wee bit drunk so that might explain it.

    Weyerbacher makes a nice pumpkin and so does Brooklyn (Post Road). I’ve also tried Southampton’s Pumpkin, Saranac’s Pumpkin and Fisherman’s Pumpkin Stout. That last one was REALLY interesting.

    I’m gonna miss them when they are gone later this month!

  3. Dr Beer Love

    Two of my favorite things here – beer and Snoopy references! I’ve not formally reviewed any of these aside from the Blue Moon one, but I tried one recently at a bar that blew my socks off – Cottonwood Pumpkin Spiced Ale – and it was heavy on the spiced. I realized after drinking it that’s what I like most in the pumpkin beers – the spice notes of clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar and the like. May be too sweet for some, but not the doctor!

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